INTERVIEW WITH MARC CORBETT
INTERVIEW BY JIM MURPHY
INTRODUCTION BY JIM MURPHY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ROB NELSON AND DAN LEVY
In Wanchese, where you can build a huge wooden bowl with pool coping in your backyard, Marc Corbett feels right at home, literally. He and his crew have taken the backyard dreams to a reality that’s awesome in size and grindability, complete with plenty of pool coping for the boys. The job doesn’t stop there though. The Chief is just one of Corbett’s masterpieces. Check out the work he did with Science and the Grindline crew on the Currituck Skatepark or the Corolla Skatepark. If that doesn’t stop you dead in your tracks, then take a run by the YMCA Skatepark or one of the backyard pools in the OBX area and you’ll find more proof of Corbett’s dedication to skateboarding. Much respect is due to the OBX crew. Read all about it here.“YOU DON’T HAVE TO BUILD A SKATEPARK IN A HIGH DOLLAR REAL ESTATE AREA. YOU JUST NEED A PLACE WITH A LOT OF LAND. PEOPLE WILL DRIVE A LITTLE WAYS TO GO SKATE IT.”
Yo, Marc. It’s Murf. What’s up, man? You got time for an interview?
Name, rank and serial number.
Name is Corbett. I don’t have a number.
What’s your rank?
I’m the Don.
The Don of Wanchese.
Where were you born?
I was born in Richmond, VA.
When were you born?
That was a good year. When is your birthday?
Holy shit. I was born Oct 11th, 1965.
There you go, man. You’re older than me, so that’s good.
[Laughs.] What was it like growing up in Richmond?
I grew up around Charlottesville and Virginia Beach. It was just normal being a kid stuff.
When did you start skateboarding?
’76. I was on a roller skate with a 1×6 nailed to it.
Get out of here. Did you build that yourself?
Yeah. My parents were the kind of people that gave Christmas presents and birthday presents each year, but you had to earn the rest. I had to figure out how to make a skateboard with a roller skate and a 1×6.
What were you skating? Were there any parks around Virginia yet?
When I was a kid, there was a guy name Jay Smith that used to build ramps. He built one in a church parking lot near my house. We skated there mostly. There was a park called FlowMotion in South Side. It was a long drive from my house, so I only got to go there once or twice. I used to dream of going there all the time.
That was a ’70s concrete park?
Yeah. It has this big gnarly concrete bowl in it called the Pit. It was like some old ’70s bowl, like at the end of Landsdowne or that one at Kona. It had kink to vertical. It was almost like it was surrounded by Jersey barriers on the side. It was pretty cool. I remember skating that a lot.
That was in the south side of Richmond?
It was in Midlothian. Then skateboarding took a nosedive and the park went out of business.
What were you doing in the early ’80s?
I was skating a lot. I remember my skateboard got stolen at one point and I was riding this old GandS fiberglass board. Then I started leaning plywood against the picnic tables and stuff like that. We started making ramps around ’81. That was when punk rock started coming in with the “do-it-yourself” attitude. We started building makeshift shit here and there. We’d make anything with transition anytime we could.
Did you guys ever road trip and go to Virginia Beach or DC?
When I was 18, I got out of school and I met Bonnie Blouin and all those people. I met Gigi, Bonnie and Brad Constable. I met you on of those trips when we went up to Annandale, except it started to rain. It was you and Steve Herring. You guys were leaving because you had to be somewhere. We skated Annandale a bunch.
Was that when Brad and Bonnie were going out, and they were living down in Charleston?
That was before they started going out. I think she was starting to go out with Micro then.
She was best friends with Brad then. I was friends with all of them, from the punk rock scene. I always wanted to skate as much as I could, and hanging out with them got me more into skating vert type stuff. Not too long after that, I went to college in Greensboro and skated with a bunch of guys down there.
Greensboro, North Carolina?
Yeah. I think that Reggie from Eastern Skate Supply built that ramp for this kid in Greensboro. It was this kid named Jay. We were skating that a lot. It was 8-feet up to vert and it was 8-feet wide. It was well built. Me and this guy, Chris McPhillips, skated there a lot.
This was in the mid ’80s?
That was around ’84. That’s when I started learning more stuff on bigger ramps. That was a really good time. Those were the days when punk rock was really happening.
What kinds of bands were guys seeing back then?
Minor Threat and DOA.
You saw them in the Carolinas?
Yeah, and I was playing in a band called Pledge Allegiance. Some of those guys went on to be in that band Four Walls Falling. They were a big straight edge band.
Were you straight edge?
The singer was straight edge, but the rest of us weren’t. His name was Taylor Steele. We were just punkers drinking Black Label or whatever was cheap. We were working at Domino’s Pizza and that sort of thing. I used to hang out with all the guys at the Browntown ramp. I actually lived there with Rando and Mark Gee.
Did you know Jay Henry?
[Laughs.]Yeah, I know Jay Henry well. I’ve been trying to get him to come to Wanchese for years. He cussed me out one time because I just kept calling him. I’ve known him for a long time.
I knew Jay when he lived up in New Jersey at his Mom’s house. I skated the Barn Ramp with him.
He used to show me pictures of the Barn Ramp. I used to skate with Jay a lot. He took us to a lot of places. He was truly a rad skater, and one of the most incredible freak-out artists of all time.
Give us one of your best Jay Henry’s freak-out moment stories.
One time, he walked up to the top of the ramp, slammed his board down and knee slid down and then walked back up to the top of the ramp and slammed his board down and did a kneeslide down and walked back up to the top of ramp and slammed his board down and on and on. He’d do this fifteen times in a row. He was screaming, “I’m just going to fuckin’ bail, so I might as well get it over with!”
That was my favorite Jay Henry moment. I wasn’t there when some kid poured Coke on the old blue metal vert ramp, but I heard that Jay threw a can of Coke at him, hit him in the head and knocked him out.
[Laughs.] Next time I see you, I’ll tell you some stories over a couple of beers.
[Laughs.] Maybe we can get Jay Henry to show up.
Yeah. The Jay Henry interview will be coming up next.
He’ll be like, “Oh, God.”
I’ll be like, “Jay, I’m going to interview you.” And he’ll be like, “Fuck you, asshole. I don’t do interviews.”
You’ve got to love Jay.
We’ve got to get him to show up. So there you were riding the Browntown Ramp. Tell us about that scene.
That was truly a cool scene. Billy built the ramp across the street from his house. I later found out that it was built to imitate a section of the old FlowMotion Skatepark in Richmond. It never occurred to me. Then someone said, “Yeah. Billy built that to be like the old STP wall.” Now that I think about it, it was almost exactly the same. It had this big roll in on one side. It was five feet tall with 6-foot transitions on the other side. It wasn’t quite up to vert, but it was headed there.
Did you have anything to do with building any of that?
No. Billy built it. You didn’t mess with Billy. He was doing what he was doing. We helped out when we could, moving plywood here and there, but Billy was pretty much the boss. I think, honestly, he would’ve gotten mad if we’d tried to do something.
It was a pretty cool scene. I lived next door for almost a year until the roof fell in on the house we were living in. Mark Gee lived upstairs, and Rando and me lived downstairs. Everyone was coming over all the time to skate. There were a bunch of other ramps around Richmond then, too.
You guys had a solid scene. I remember coming out there and hanging out with Brad. It was killer.
It was a good scene. There were a whole lot of people living there at the time that were really into skating. Bonnie and Gigi and that whole crew had their “True Devotion” magazine going. Then she started writing for “Lapper”. Then she ended up at “Thrasher” after a while.
She was a good woman.
Bonnie was cool. I wish she were still around today to see all this stuff we’re building and skating. She’d have been totally into it.
It was a really cool scene. It was a cool place to be at the time.
When vert skating started blowing up in the late ’80s, where did you go from there?
I was living in Richmond during that whole era. I was skating vert and having fun. I was just doing whatever. There were a bunch of ramps. There was a real good ramp in Hanover. There was one called the Salisbury ramp. I swear it had 11-foot transitions. It was like a foot of vert on one side and two feet of vert on the other. It was ahead of its time. It was all gnarly, kinked plywood. You know everything that would happen to those old ramps.
It was splintered to hell.
Oh, yeah. I saw a guy get a splinter through his foot there one day. It went in the front and out the back of his foot.
[Laughs.] I’ve been there.
It was super-gnarly. Bubba always had ramps south of Petersburg. He still has one, I think. I was always there skating and having fun.
What were you doing for work at the time? Were you a carpenter?
In the early Browntown days, I mostly delivered pizzas. Then my car started breaking down too much. Then I got a job with this punk rocker dude named Cliff. I started doing framing. He was a weird dude, but he was pretty cool. If you look through that DC hardcore book, he’s in just about every crowd shot. He’s this black punk rocker dude with a Grace Jones hairdo. He was the type of guy that you would call and tell him that you couldn’t make it to work on Saturday and he’d be like, “I can’t help it if you’re sick. You’re either coming to work or you’re fired.” He was a total bastard to work for, but I learned a lot from him. When I was playing in bands, he used to yell from the crowd, “Hey, dedicate this song to your asshole boss!”
I learned a lot working with him. I’d always been doing carpentry. I’m still doing carpentry and building houses and stuff. That’s what I do.
When skateboarding died, were you still in Richmond through the early ’90s?
Yeah. I never really quit skating, but I was only skating on and off. Then I moved to the Outer Banks in ’94.
Why did you move to the Outer Banks?
I’m into surfing, too, and it’s a really good place to surf on the East Coast. I got way more into surfing from 1990 until 1998. I’m always going to surf if there are waves. I never quit skating completely, but there wasn’t much going on in the ’90s. I’d see kids riding boards with these little wheels that were so small they were barely bigger than the bearings. I’d be like, “Dude. Let me see your board. These wheels don’t even roll. What’s up with that?”
Did you have a stockpile of old 63s that you’d saved?
I had a set of Bullet 66s that I was riding during that whole period. Sometimes we’d go to one of the skateparks they had in the warehouses here and people were like, “Did you used to skate vert?” I guess that was because I could do rock n’ rolls on the vert extensions. I’d say, “I guess I still do.”
Did you ever go to the Ramp House down in Wilmington?
No. I never made it down there, and I never made it to the Hanger when it was indoors.
The Hanger was so sick indoors.
I believe it. I’ve heard that. I love skating it now, and it looks like it was fun then, too.
Did the Outer Banks have anything to skate back in ’94?
There was always stuff here and there to skate. There was stuff indoors and then there were mini ramps outdoors that people put up.
There had to be some hotel pools in the off-season, right?
There was a pretty good pool at the Carolinian that was nice. Dirty and I skated that a few times, and then it got dozed. In fact, there are two pieces of Carolinian coping on Wanchese. Plus, we buried one in the center of the Y. There’s definitely some Carolinian coping scattered about here and there.
How was that pool?
It was sick. It was a 6 or 7-foot transition with a few feet of vert. It was definitely ride-able. We never got to skate it for very long, though. There was always some dude that would come out and yell, “I’m calling the cops.” We were like, “Thanks for telling us. See you later.” But we got some sessions in on it. Trey Winslow and those guys came down and drained it one time and got busted and went to jail. I remember that. It was when we were building Wanchese. There were a couple of pools around here, but they were hard to get to.
As the ’90s progressed, did the scene start blowing up?
A little bit. This guy named Chip, who was a bike dude, owned the Sandbox Skatepark. He was a real good dude. He kept that thing going for years. It was outdoors. We built a mini vert ramp onto the side of his mini ramp that he already had. It was 8-foot transitions with 6 inches of vert. We were working with what he had. That was the first time that I saw Skatelite. He sprung for the Skatelite on that deal. We pretty much built that for free and he paid for all the materials. It was cool. We rode that for years.
That’s cool, man.
Yeah, a lot of people started showing up during that era.
Was that like ’99?
That was 2000 or 2001. That’s when we got the idea to build a bowl. Then Brent Beasley, who is one of the old school rippers from around here that kills it, said, “I’ve got a piece of property. Why don’t we start building a bowl out there?” So we went to northern Virginia and saw Jaime’s old bowl. Then we went to FDR and saw what they’d done there. We went to the Hanger. Then we were like, “We can build this stuff.”
Did you ever make it to Skatopia back then?
No. I never made it out there. I was just around here the whole time. I’d seen pictures of it. It was sick.
Had you built any roundwall up until then?
No. I’d built a lot of flat wall ramps before that. I’ve built just about anything you can think of framing-wise. We just had to figure out exactly how it works. I remember the day that we figured out that the radius at the top was what the ribs were. Then we just started rolling.
You just figured out how to do it yourself? You didn’t have someone who had built a bowl before show you how to do it?
We just figured it out. It was Dirty, Brent and me. We’d all been doing construction forever. It wasn’t like we were wondering if it was going to work. We knew it would. We just started out by cutting down a bunch of trees. Then we started building the bowl one day. The first weekend we were there, we got the flat bottom section of the round bowl done. Everyone was like, “Are we really doing this?” I was like, “Yeah, we’re really doing it.” We just started building it. We got the round bowl done the first year. We didn’t even know what we were going to build onto it after that. We were thinking about putting a full pipe in it. Then Dirty says, “If we build a full pipe, that’s going to take forever. It’ll get some riding, but it’s a lot of work for what it is.” So we thought about it and decided to do an over vert pocket in a square bowl. That’s how we came up with that. We wanted to keep it symmetrical. It helps to have symmetrical stuff in a bowl as far as being able to hit tricks in the same area.
It helps to draw good lines.
Yeah. Not to say that unsymmetrical stuff is bad, because we’ve built plenty of that, but the best stuff is symmetrical. So we kept it symmetrical and put the over vert pocket in one of the square corners.
Was there much debate about what kind of tranny/vert ratio you were going to have?
There was a lot of debate at first, because some of the guys didn’t want to build it that big. We ended not going with a full size vert ramp. We built it so that it was a little bit tighter. We ended up with 9-foot transitions. We’ve got a foot of vert in the square bowl and six inches of vert in the round bowl. Some people didn’t want it to be super gigantic. It was like a democracy. Then, the inevitable happens: it’s just you and two people helping all the time to build it, and we decided we were putting a foot of vert in the square bowl. We never had any major regrets with what we did building Wanchese. Everything seemed to work really well together.
What year did you start Wanchese?
Was there anything else skateable in the area at the time?
Yeah. Chip’s Skatepark was open until the first summer that Wanchese was finished. The skatepark property got bought up, like half the property in the Outer Banks, because it’s just too valuable. The property was on the beach road, so they sold the shopping center and turned it into houses. We were real glad to be finishing Wanchese at that point, because there was nothing else to skate.
Is Wanchese on your property?
Well, what happened was that the lady next door was going to buy the property from Brent’s parents who ended up not selling it her. They decided to sell it to us, almost at the last minute. She had already handed them the money, but then they sold it to us because they didn’t want to see the bowl get torn down.
Who is “us”?
I ended up buying it. The people who built Wanchese would be me, Dirty, Ed Kingsmore, Josh Shortridge, Rob Nelson, Andy Duck, Mike Rowe, George and a whole bunch of people. We got real lucky that it didn’t get bought out from under us.
You had to pay market value for it, right?
Yeah. I got a little better deal than market value because they needed the money, but it was close to a fair price at the time. It’s gone up a lot since then. Real estate around here has gotten ridiculous.
When you bought the property, did you live there as well?
No. I’ve never lived there. I’m getting ready to build a house out there before too long. That’s two projects down the line.
When you got that bowl up and running, what was the scene like? Did you try to keep it for the locals or did you let the word spread? What was the initial vibe?
We pretty much felt like it was open to anybody. I’ve never been one of those people that was like, “We just want to keep it to ourselves.” I’ve never bought into that “locals only” stuff. Whoever shows up, shows up. We’ve never had lights, so it’s not 24-7, but it’s there every day of the year.
Do you ever get concerned someone might go there and hurt themselves? Was liability ever an issue?
Well, we figured it’s big enough that not too many people are going to try to skate it if they don’t already know how to skate. Nobody goes out there to learn to skate. Most of the people that come out there are really appreciative. Once in a while, we have kids that come out there and cause trouble. I think everyone that has a skate spot has the same problem. It’s mostly kids throwing bikes into the creek and stuff like that. I try to keep all those kids out of there, but you can’t watch them 24 hours a day.
Wanchese seems a lot like the Charleston bowl. It’s just the bros hanging out. Anyone that shows up knows what they’re doing.
It’s a lot like that. Not to say that some people haven’t shown up and learned to skate. Ashley (Barnes) learned to skate there. This guy named Tito from El Salvador, he’s 45 years old, learned to skate there last year. He’s already grinding the over vert.
Is he a surfer?
No. He’s a construction guy. He shows up and brings us wood and stuff. He’s really cool.
As things evolved in the Outer Banks, what started popping up after Wanchese?
The Nags Head Y called us up and asked us what they should do about getting a skatepark. We said, “If you want a skatepark, it has to be concrete, and if you want to do a concrete skatepark, you need to call up either Grindline or Dreamland.”
So they got up with Grindline and next thing we knew, we were getting a Grindline park. We did everything we could to steer them in that direction. They wanted to do the street course area out of wood, but they had gotten some high prices from various skatepark companies. We were like, “If you’ll get Grindline to do the concrete part, we’ll do the wood for as cheap as we can possibly do it.” They had companies that bid $250,000 for it. We did it for $40,000. That was including the wood and the Skatelite.
At the end there, I was making no money, but we paid all the guys that worked on it. There were a couple of nights that everyone stayed and worked late for free. We got it done. We got a Grindline park. We met all those guys. That was fun.
Did you do that as your own company?
Yeah. I’m a framing contractor, so I worked out a deal with them and they ran it through the general contractor that was doing the whole job. I worked as a sub-contractor. We built that park for pretty cheap. We had to build it out in a field and then move it in with a big forklift later. That was a pain in the ass. One day, one of the chains snapped and one of the banked ramps dropped like, 10 feet. I bet you could hear the noise all the way across the sound.
Did the chain just give way?
It popped off one of the forks and fell. We built it so tough that it survived the fall, but it broke the legs off. It made so much noise. It was astounding. We built all that stuff as bulletproof as we could. Those ramps are built out of 2x6s, and the banked ramps are built out of 2x8s. They’re, basically, built like a roof.
Were the kids stoked?
They thought it was a little too big, but they got used to it. They’re stepping it up. It’s funny, because we’ve been accused of only building stuff that we like to skate, but I’m like, “Why? I never skate that street course area, but I spent two months building it.”
What did the kids say they wanted that you didn’t build?
I think they just wanted it smaller. There were a lot of street skaters around here that had a lot to do with the design of that thing. Honestly, I liked the original design better than what they ended up getting. A good street skater can rip it apart, but some of the stuff is pretty hard for the kids to ride. It’s got a 4-foot tall 20-foot wide mini ramp, which is pretty much indestructible, so you can’t say the kids can’t ride that.
From a skater’s point of view, can you envision being a little kid and bitching about anything being too big that someone is building you to skate?
Hell, no. That’s a bad subject. We used to get beat up for doing stuff that kids pick up chicks for nowadays. It’s like, “You’re a punk rocker? You’re a skater?” I got beat up many times for that as a kid. Now it’s just a different world. It’s bizarre to me.
Yeah. You skate whatever is there, the bigger the better. The more challenging it is, the more you like it. People are getting spoiled now.
We grew up reading “Skateboarder” magazines and wanting to skate all that really cool looking stuff. We did everything we could do to find it. Nowadays, some kids don’t have a clue, but there’s a whole new generation of kids showing up now that are really into riding transition. The whole street skating thing is dying now. A lot of those kids’ heroes were rappers and gangsters. They had that cocky attitude that goes with all that stuff. But all the kids I meet nowadays are into riding transition, like the kids at the Currituck Skatepark. There are little redneck kids riding Dogtown boards. There’s this one punk rock redneck kid who rides one of those re-issue Jim Muir boards. I was like, “Wow. This kid doesn’t have any gangster in him. He’s totally into NASCAR.” He started to ride and he’s ripping. There are a whole bunch of kids like that out there. It’s good.
It seems like when I go to the Outer Banks, there are a lot of kids who surf and can appreciate speed and carving. It translates right into bowl riding.
There are a bunch of kids like that. Morgan Burgess from Ohio was here this week with Dan Rea. That kid is just ripping with great style.
Did he bust out any 540s?
He did one, but it wasn’t quite over the coping yet. The 540 has not officially been done over the coping at Wanchese yet. I’m waiting for someone to do it.
Sergie will do it.
He hasn’t done one yet. I’ve been yelling at him, too. Come on, Sergie.
I saw him do it at the combi pool.
Maybe he’ll show up here and step it up. Understandably, we haven’t seen those guys in a little while, because they’re still bug-eyed from their new giant vert ramp, which I haven’t been to yet. I can’t believe I haven’t made it up there yet.
Who are some of the people that you’ve seen session Wanchese? Have you had any pros come through that have really worked that bowl?
It’s kind of funny when the pros come through. People around here say, “They were ripping, almost as much as Science Fair.”
With Jesse Davis, Science Fair and Dirty on deck, you have to get gnarly. Unless you’re just unbelievably good, you’re not going to be able to show up and make everyone freak out. You’re not going to do anything they haven’t seen before. Sometimes when the pros come through, it’s kind of anti-climactic.
[Laughs.] Are there any particular pros that you want to mention?
Anti… Let’s just say that no one is going to show up and skate Wanchese better than Science Fair, most likely. It’s not going to happen, unless they’re just truly gifted.
After you guys built Nags Head with Grindline, didn’t you and Science work on a park in Corolla?
Yeah. That’s the Corolla Park. I was the one with my head in the noose on that one.
How did that work out?
One of the guys from the Y called us up and wanted to build a skatepark. That’s how it happened. We went up there and got in over our heads pretty much, but we pulled it off.
You’d never worked with concrete?
Not really. Before that park, Mike Rowe had built his kidney pool and we built the egg bowl that’s in Boogie’s backyard. They got a lot of experience with concrete doing that stuff.
What were you doing? Were you shaping concrete or tying rebar?
When Mike built his pool, I just did a little rebar, because I was still busy working on the Y Park. They worked with Mark Gwaltney and all those guys from the VBS crew. Gwaltney had been doing some concrete. They ended up doing a good job on the bowl. Then the next year, they did that one for Evan. That came out real good. I had a lot to do with designing and laying that one out. We sort of knew what we were doing with concrete before we got into that Corolla Park, but it was pretty insane that we jumped into that park the way we did. They didn’t even have a concrete pump.
You’d never worked a pump before that?
No. They’d done it with the pools, but of course, with pools you have to put the plaster in it. You don’t have the time constraints as to when the concrete goes off. You have to have it finished by then. With a pool, it’s different because you can plaster that later.
But you don’t necessarily have to put plaster in a pool, right? You can still do the one shot deal.
You can do the one shot deal with pools, but if you’re going to swim in it, which adds so much to your property value, it makes a lot of sense to plaster it.
Are you saying you couldn’t swim in a one-shot pool?
You could swim in it, but it ends up having a good bit of problems after a while. It’s not normally what someone would recommend for the finish on a pool. It gets water in it with freezing and thawing. I don’t know how many types of plaster there are, but there are a lot. With plaster, when it finally does mess up, years down the road, you can tear it out and redo it. If you’re going to swim in it, you want plaster in it. They did their pools with plaster, but it’s not the same time constraints of, “You have to have it finished by the time the concrete goes off or you have to stay there all night because of the concrete not going off.” It’s a little more hardcore when you’re doing a finished concrete park.
You had to deal with the city, too. Was that a whole other headache?
Well, most of the hoop-jumping with the county was done by the owners of the park. I had to go to all those meetings though, and I pretty much designed the park for free. We thought we were going to build it for a lot cheaper than it was. We learned a lot building that thing. We’re still messing with it.
You didn’t have to deal with a bidding process for that park?
No, they just came to us.
That was nice.
They’d dealt with me at the Y. I was basically the person, writing all the paychecks on that park. I was the one pulling my hair out over every thing. Mike and Andy bought their concrete pump during that time, so that made it a lot easier. We didn’t have to go and rent a pump every week. It came out good. It’s a pretty good park with a good bowl in it.
What did you do on that? Did you shape or blow the crete?
I mostly laid everything out and tried to stay one step ahead of the concrete. I did a good bit of concrete work on it, because when something starts going wrong with the concrete, it’s all hands on deck. If they’re having a hard time, you’re in there. Sometimes, if you’re not even working on the job, you get yanked in there.
What was that like for you? When you say you got in over your head and you found yourself in that situation, were you like, “What the hell did I get myself into?”
Well, I’ve been there a million times, building stuff before. It wasn’t like I didn’t know what was getting ready to go on. It was hell. I worked seven days a week for three months. It was hot as holy hell. You couldn’t ask for a worse place to build a park. It was in the middle of a shopping center so that blocked out the breeze on all sides. It was like an oven in there. People were passing out. I swear. Science Fair turned green one day.
I was like, “Oh, my God, dude. Go sit down. Now.” I started pouring water in his mouth. He was literally about to heat stroke out. It was hell for three months.
As a builder, how to you compare working with wood to working with concrete?
You have to be more precise with wood, because with wood, you’re building the final thing. That’s what you’re going to ride on. With concrete, you need to get the forms up so that they’re right, but there’s a lot of stuff that you can do with a trowel to make it come out right. When you build a wood bowl, you have to make sure everything is as close to perfect as you can get. With concrete, you lay it out as good as you can, but there’s a lot of, “We’ll get that right when we start going with the concrete.” That holds true most of the time. You want to make sure that you have everything as right as you can before you start pumping concrete. There’s a lot that comes out in the wash with concrete, whereas with wood, what you see is what you get.
After that project was done, what was the response?
For us, everyone went home and collapsed. I went home and added up the money, and realized that I’d pretty much worked for free all summer. That was my own fault.
Did you underbid it?
Oh, yeah. We definitely learned a lot about bidding a skatepark job from that experience. We know now how much money it’s going to take.
Was it a price-sensitive project, where, if you’d come in with a higher price, that would have blown it out of the water?
I think it would have worked out that way. I think both of the owners of that park were like, “If we’d known it was going to cost this much, we wouldn’t have done it.” But they were super cool. I have to give them a lot of the credit. They took care of the bills, and I didn’t get left hanging. That’s something that can easily happen to you on a job. We were really happy that didn’t happen.
As you look to the future, are you going to put yourself out there as a concrete skatepark building company? Are you still looking to do that or are you just going to keep framing and take it as it comes?
Well, actually, we went to work with Grindline on that Currituck park with Shaggy. It was pretty much Shaggy, Ed Peck and me framing it up.
What was that experience like?
It was a good experience. I had a great time. Little Eddie and Fish came out to do a lot of the concrete work. They hired Andy and Mike and their concrete pump to do the park. Mike and Andy pretty much pumped that park with Grindline. We’ve worked with them before. I’d like to work with them some more.
So it was a good experience for you working with concrete?
Yeah, I like working with concrete. I especially like laying stuff out. My head is into designing it and laying it out. I worked one day shooting ‘crete on that park. Then I had this job that had been held up by the building inspectors forever and I had to go start building that house, which I’m still working on. As far as the future goes, I want to build more parks. I really like building the backyard stuff. We built a pool for Mark Gee. Foamy, Science and I laid it out and then Andy went down and shot it.
Is it ready to go?
It’s at the coping stage right now. It’s a guitar-shaped bowl. I think it might be one of the coolest things we’ve built so far.
What are the dimensions?
It’s 7 1/2 foot transitions with a foot of vert in the deep end with five-foot transitions with 6-inches of vert in the shallow end. It’s got a real sick waterfall in it. It’s going to be awesome.
Nice. What do you think of this new phenomenon of guys getting concrete pools in their backyards? I mean, you have three out in Nags Head. That’s one of the raddest scenes on the East Coast.
It’s awesome. It’s like your dream from when you’re a little kid. We have pools that are skateable that you don’t have to get arrested to go skate.
[Laughs.] Yeah. No shit.
My favorite part is designing them and making them happen. I like to see what you draw on paper come true. That’s what I’m into.
Do you have any new shapes that you’ve thought of that you’d like to see in a pool?
Oh, man. I have hundreds. I probably designed half of them when I was in 10th grade.
You just sat around and drew them?
Yeah, I was just wasting time in class.
What do you think of the Vans combi pool shape?
I’ve always liked that shape. It’s cool. They sure are building a lot of them on the East Coast.
Did you ride the one in Arlington?
No. Every time I go up there, I get rained out. I don’t know what it is. I’ve been to Jaime’s three times and gotten rained out. I got rained out before I even got to the Green Skate lab, so I haven’t gotten by there yet.
You haven’t skated Jaime’s new pool?
I skated it before the deep end was finished.
That deep end is deep.
It looks pretty gnarly. It looks fun. I want to go skate it. One of these days, I’ll make it up there and it won’t rain on me.
What is your duty now for the future?
I’m working with Mike and Andy and we’re all trying to get skatepark jobs. I have a couple on the line. They’re planning a replica of the Title 10 bowl in Rocky Mount, NC. They bought plans from us for that. I worked with Foamy on that one. That one is going to be a foam core bowl with the concrete shot on top of the foam.
Tell me about the foam core bowl idea. How did that develop?
It’s a way to build a skatepark or a pool above ground in a flood zone area, which we have a lot of around here. Mark Laman was the first person to think of it and do it. He moved down here and he lives here now. He had built a bowl with the foam blocks in New Jersey. He built it, skated it and then the county went back on their word. They hadn’t permitted him to build a skateboarding pool. They thought it was going to be a swimming pool. They pulled his building permit, so he had to tear it down. One of the cool things about having to tear it down was that he got to dissect it. He made a video of it. It’s a cool idea. They used polystyrene foam. It comes in blocks. You can basically cut with a hot knife and carve it. It’s a little harder, in some ways, than building a regular park, but in some ways, it’s easier.
Instead of using dirt as the fill, you put rebar over the foam?
Yeah. We’re definitely looking to do more of those if we can.
What is the size of those foam blocks?
It’s basically the size of a hack of plywood. It’s 4x4x8.
You’d embed it in dirt and then it projects out to where the tranny would be in a pool?
Yeah, and then you re-carve the foam.
When you have a situation with water where you have a drainage problem, how does that affect the foam?
It pretty much solves most of the water issues, because you’re building the pool out of the ground. You’re building up. The reason they make that stuff is for building on unstable ground.
Is that used on highways, too?
Yeah, they use it on highways and for building foundations. They use it for all kinds of stuff when they’re building on less-than-stable ground.
So the concrete sticks to it and it doesn’t compress it and press the foam down?
The foam stays intact. In fact, it adds strength to the project. Once you have the engineering down, you don’t have to use that much rebar because the foam itself acts as the structure.
What’s the cost on something like that?
It’s a little more expensive. In certain places, it allows you to build a concrete park, where you normally wouldn’t be able to build one.
So it’s already a proven product?
Yeah. It’s been used for years for highway construction. They got a lot experience using it in New Jersey until they had to tear it down. I think it’s a little harder to shoot. It tends to vibrate a little and that makes it harder to shoot the ‘crete, but if you want to build a concrete park in a less-than-ideal location, it might allow more of those kinds of parks to be built.
If it rains when you’re forming something, the rain usually brings down the dirt. The foam is not going anywhere.
Yeah, that’s the good thing about it. The foam is more expensive, but dirt ain’t cheap either. You have to add in bobcats and sometimes you have to bring in dirt. When we were building Currituck, we had to bring in dirt like crazy.
You have to fill it.
Grindline is pretty crazy. They’re going to get ‘er done. It was a good experience. They probably bought $15,000 worth of dirt to build that park that wasn’t part of the bid. That’s how they roll. We started building the keyhole in that park and we were deciding what to do. We were either going to do eight foot transitions with a foot of vert and have decks or we could build it bigger with no decks. Maxwell and I were like, “We’ll build the decks on it later, dude. Make it deep, because you can’t make it deeper later.”
We didn’t quite end up getting 10′ and 2′ out of it. It’s like 9 1/2 foot transitions with a little over a foot of vert on it. It’s definitely fun.
Mandatory pool coping?
Yeah. Maxwell and I went out there and built decks on it last month, and got a little more money out of Currituck County. We put wood decks around it, which is cool.
Are they stable?
They’re super stable. I had to build them to commercial standards. I have to go out there tomorrow and rebuild the steps, because I put a residential rise on the steps. You can’t have more than a seven-inch rise on a set of commercial steps in the state of North Carolina. Remember that.
What is a residential rise?
That’s the height of a step, which is a maximum of 8 3/8” per step for residential. For commercial, 7” is the maximum rise. We blew it. We made them 7 7/8”, so we have to go back and replace them. That’s how it goes. Oh, well. Working for free again, just like I like it.
I went down and worked on a skatepark last weekend in Buxton.
Oh, yeah? Where is Buxton?
That’s in Hatteras. This guy named Pat Sanderlin is building a 4-foot tall mini bowl in this otherwise lame skatepark that the county bought wood work stuff for. It’s all pre-fab stuff. It was not so good, but now they’re going to have a mini bowl there, so that’s cool.
It sounds like skatepark building is not a job that will guarantee you a lot of money, but you have the satisfaction of building something that is going to last.
Yeah. Believe me. I don’t know if I’ve ever broken even building skate stuff. Anything that I ever made money on, I lost somewhere else to make up for it.
[Laughs.] The bottom line is that the towns have a certain budget, but you want to build what you want to build, so you just go for broke, right?
Yeah, I think that’s how it works a lot. I think Grindline had the same experience with that over the years.
Yeah. Thanks to Little Eddie.
Thanks to Monk from what I heard. I think they started out like that.
Why wouldn’t ya? If you’re a skateboarder and you have money to build stuff, go for it.
Unfortunately, it seems like the only way you’re going to make money building skateparks is to do a pre-fab park.
Well, there are plenty of ways to make money doing it. Grindline is keeping their head above water now. They might not be making much money, but they’re not losing money like they were. You just have to do everything you can to keep your kids fed.
Yeah, and keep your workers happy.
That’s really important. You have to keep the guys working that are good.
Do you see this park thing slowing down anytime soon?
No. I see a lot more parks in the works. We were talking about how they’re going to start blowing up in the next few years, even more than they are now.
What makes you think that?
Because of the sheer number of calls we get from people. There are tons of municipalities that are interested in skateparks now. We get calls all the time. Most of the time, they don’t pan out. They say, “Two or three years from now, we’ll have the money to build one.”
Do they usually give you a budget to work with?
Well, they’re always trying to lowball you. They want you to do a bunch of work for free. Some of them say, “You do all the work for free and then we’ll hire someone else to do it.” I think that’s where it’s getting scary right now with skatepark building. Everyone is trying to get the jobs and keep working, but they have to lowball it. Maybe one of these days, all of the skatepark builders that actually care can say, “We’re not going to build it for lower than this amount. You’re going to have to come off with some money so we can make a living and afford to feed our kids and keep our workers happy and still build a quality skatepark.” I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be building everything we can, but c’mon. Everyone’s got to make a living. The towns try to lowball you, too. They’ll get someone to bid for a really low price. What they don’t realize is that the reason some of these corporate builders say they can do it for that low price is because they’re not going to do a very good job.
You end up with a shitty park and everyone loses.
Some poor guy that knows nothing about skateparks is going to lose. He just doesn’t know it yet. There’s a lot of that going on.
What would you say to a town that is looking to get a skatepark built? How would you tell them to research to make sure they get the right company to build it?
When I talk to towns, I tell them like it is. I say, “It’s going to cost this much money. You need this park to be good. You don’t want to just hire anybody to do it. You want to hire one of the more reputable companies to build it.” You don’t want everyone to come in and put their two cents in either. Face it. You’re not going to be able to build a park that everyone is going to like. You want a park with a lot of good stuff that everyone can skate. Democracy doesn’t usually work when you’re building a skatepark.
When you get an inquiry from these towns, do many of them say that they want bowls or do they want street courses?
There are a lot of people that want street courses. I’m not against that as much as some people are. I think parks should have a little bit of everything in them. Honestly, I think, considering the amount of money that towns spend on baseball fields… Like we have a hockey rink here that no one ever uses, but it costs a couple hundred thousand dollars to build and keep it up. It’s just a roller hockey rink.
Take, for instance, a city like Raleigh, NC. It’s the center of the state. They ought to come up with a million dollars to build a skatepark and they should have one of everything in it. They shouldn’t go blowing half of the money on consultants and landscape architects. Just hire a really good skatepark company to build it. Or hire two skatepark companies to build it. There are some guys coming up that are building street parks. Have a couple of companies work on it. Why does the skatepark have to be all one thing or the other? They ought to be building parks that have lots of stuff in them. I can’t imagine why they don’t. Skateboarding has become a pretty popular sport.
I guess it comes down to the acreage and the budget.
Yeah, but you don’t have to build a skatepark in a high dollar real estate area. You just need a place with a lot of land. People will drive a little ways to go skate it.
I hear you. I’m with ya.
I’ve always been more of the belief that if they want a street plaza, build a street plaza. Build a flow park. Build some stand-alone bowls. Build a skatepark that’s more than 3000 square feet. Build a skatepark that will keep people happy. Hopefully, that will start happening more in the future. That’s what I’d like to see. You want some street stuff for the kids to keep them occupied. The truth is that you can build all the street plazas you want, but it’s not going to stop kids from skating other places. The plaza is going to keep them occupied for an hour or two and then they’re going to want to go film somewhere else. That’s how street skating is. I don’t think you should dedicate a huge section of the park to street skating. They will get bored of that stuff before too long. It’s basically a training facility for them to learn to do stuff on. Then they’re going to take it somewhere else. I think they should be legalizing street skating all over cities.
Well, the cities are making it illegal to street skate and then building the skateparks to contain the skaters.
Why don’t they just find out where the kids like to skate and open up as many of those places as they can to be legal to skate? I don’t think that building a street plaza park is the solution to making street skating illegal. They should just legalize skateboarding. It’s just stupid. Maybe they could set it up where street skating is legal in certain areas at certain times of the day.
Make it skater-friendly.
You should run for mayor of Wanchese.
They have to make it a town first. They’re still working on that. We just got zoning there this year. You can do anything you want on your property here right now. You can do anything you want in Wanchese.
Is there anyone you want to thank?
Yeah. I have a long list. To the people throwing down the real hammers… We don’t throw down hammers. We pick up hammers.
I want to thank anyone that is building good stuff to skate. I want to thank all of the Wanchese guys. I want to thank Brent Beasley, Rob Nelson, Jesse Davis, Dirty, Ed Kingsmore, Palmer, Chicken George, Bart, Josh Shortridge, Jason, Andy Duck, Mike Rowe, and the legendary Pat Clark.
Yeah, Fat Pat. You know he lurks around here.
I’ve seen him lurking, eating powdered donuts.
[Laughs.] I want to thank Foamy, Maxwell, Ashley, Sue, Mikey Weeks, Joe Ward, Chip from The Sandbox, Bernie, Andrew Riley, John Talsma, Bob and Tanya Hovey, The Boogie, Gwaltney, Tito, Dan Rea, Jaime, Brian Lathrop, ErrandBoy, Scott Green, Andy Neal, Shane Thomas, Hank Biering, Tim Glomb, Devin Poppins, Rando… You want me to keep going?
[Laughs.] Yeah, keep going.
I want to thank Trey Winslow, Nick Loco, Neil Wade, Otis, Mark Gee and Alisa, John Horn and the old Richmond crew, Billy Pickett, Jay Henry, Brad Constable, Larry, Alex, Brandon, Kenny and Bubba Martin. I also want to thank Ed Peck, Shaggy, Monk, Rabbi, Little Eddie and all the Grindline guys. I want to thank Dreamland for building awesome parks. I want to thank Brewce Martin, the VBS crew, the ECRW, the Fork crew, the Hanger crew, Nagchaumpa, CIA, the Toke team, the 5.9ers. Thanks to Ghosttown wheels and Murf at Wounded Knee for the love. Bonnie Blouin R.I.P. Rob Kinneman R.I.P. Randy Lowe R.I.P. Thanks to Mike Beasley for putting up with us and giving us power at Wanchese since day one. He’s the guy that lives in that trailer in front of it. Thanks to the whole Beasley family for being crazy enough to let us build the Chief in the first place. Without them, there would be no Wanchese bowl. Most of all, thanks to Helen and Ella for being the best family that I could ever have.
Right on, man.
If I missed anyone, you know I love you.
Fuck, yeah, Corbett. Thanks a lot.
Thanks for the Wounded Knee deck, man. That’s my favorite board I’ve ever ridden. I really like that board. It’s sick.
Right on, man. You’re set. You’re on the team.
I’m 40 years old and finally got sponsored.
After 30 years.
You’re a young’un compared to an old guy like me. You’re coming up. You’re killing it.
I love those boards, man. I love those Ghosttown Wheels, too. They’re awesome. I’ve been riding the 63s. I stepped up from the 60s.
Those things are fast.
Yeah, and they’re incredibly grippy for as fast they are. I was surprised. I was like, “These wheels are bad ass.”
I love those wheels. They don’t flatspot, either
The urethane is real good. I’ve been stoked on them.
Well, we’ll keep you set up with the 63s.
Right on. Thanks. When are we going to see you down here?
When’s the next event?
I guess the next official event is going to be Cornfest, but we’re always doing stuff down here.
I’ve got to come and ride Currituck, man.
That’s an event right there. Come skate Currituck. It’s fun.
All right. I’ll get a plan going.
Don’t bail going over the doorway either. Either don’t do it all or go all the way over it. Just ride over it and eat it, but don’t bail. Junior from Virginia Beach bailed and he went right into the middle of the door and compound fractured his arm. Bailing is the worst thing you can do. Bail after you’ve already made it. Just keep going.
Yeah. Don’t bail. Keep your momentum going and go into a knee slide.
That’s the only way to do it. If you try to bail in the middle of it, you’re going down. You’ll love the keyhole. That’s the only time I’ve ever heard Devin Poppins say, “That’s one of the best concrete things I’ve ever ridden.” I’m like, “We got the Poppins seal of approval on the keyhole.” We were stoked. I told Shaggy and he was like, “Rad!”
[Laughs.] That thing looks so smooth.
They’ve gotten so good with the finish. It’s unreal.
I can’t wait. I’ll get down there soon.
We’re looking forward to seeing you. What about Maxwell’s house, dude? He’s got 40 sheets of Ramp Armor. We’re building a vert ramp.
What’s it going to be 10′ and 2’?
Yeah. 10′ and 2′. It’s going to be 24 feet wide and then we’re going to do a curved section on the end like the Volcom ramp. It’s going to turn into a football shape on that end and then it’s going to up into a small bowl on the other side. It’s going to be like Bob Burnquist’s ramp mixed with the Volcom ramp, made by Science Fair.
That’s going to be sick.
We have to build a bathtub bowl before we start building that though. Ashley is like, “No way. You’re building my bathtub bowl first.”
Ego buster with brick.
No doubt. Then he’s going to build a pool. We’re going to build more stuff in that yard than anywhere else. It would only be fitting.
Well, I’m there. I’ll be touch with you, man. Tell Science I said, “What’s up.”
Don’t worry. I’ll see him tomorrow at work.
Grind some pool coping. That’s what we want.
I will do that.
Skate tuff, eat muff.
All right, man. Thank you. Later.